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support, or have assisted them to emigrate to America. Others, thinking it better to pay for quiet possession than to incur the risk of outrage, have induced them to quit by the payment of a small sum of money. But unless some further care be given, to place them in a way of obtaining employment for their support, the money is soon expended, and the unfortunate people become per fectly destitute.*
Even in cases where the tenant, being dispos
• The following is from the report of a charitable relief committee, after investigating the circumstances of some of these ejected paupers :
“ The committee further learned that some landed proprietors in the “ neighbourhood, finding that the small cottiers and squatters on their “ properties were incapable of cultivating their land, and being also de“sirous of relieving their estates from the burden of a pauper popula“ tion, offered them money if they would give up quiet and peaceable “possession of their holdings, and pull their houses down. These offers “ were generally accepted; the dwellings were destroyed, and the “ wretched houseless outcasts sought refuge in the town; and when “ their money was expended, being unable to procure admission into " the union workhouse, owing to its crowded state, they were compelled " to wander about the streets, or lie in open sheds, without any means of “ support. There is too much reason to believe that although some “ landlords gave money, and perhaps to the full value, to their poor “ tenants, to level their houses, yet that several others were by no “ means so scrupulous ; some of the poor squatters being very harshly “ treated ; advantage being taken of their absence while at work on the “roads to prostrate their dwellings, without either notice or compensa“ tion, and thus, on returning from their day's work, they found them“selves deprived of a place of shelter. The numerous demolished “ houses which met the eye in the neighbourhood, but too plainly indicate " that measures of a sweeping character were resorted to. Unless “ something in the nature of a law of settlement be speedily adopted, “ this wholesale eviction of tenantry will be certain to increase."
sessed of his farm, receives the full value in money, he often finds it impossible to obtain another, and after some ineffectual attempts, his capital is expended, and he sinks into hopeless poverty. A. case which has come under the writer's personal observation will illustrate this.
The party alluded to held a farm of twenty acres in the county of Wicklow, under a lease for twenty-one years and one life, which expired seventeen years since. For two years he hoped to obtain a renewal, and repeatedly tendered his rent, which was always refused ; but, at the expiration of this period, he was served with an ejectment, and forced, very unwillingly, to quit, and the farm was added to the holding of another tenant. The agent arranged that the new tenant should give the late occupier £50 for quiet possession, to which the landlord added £50 more, and forgave him the two years' rent. The landlord even offered to pay the passage of himself and his family to America, but he preferred remaining, still hoping to obtain another farm, and being then possessed of a capital of £300. Three years were spent in ineffectual efforts to obtain a farm; meanwhile he lived on his capital, until it gradually dwindled away, and left him, as he now is, a common day labourer. He is a sober, industrious, intelligent old man, and has brought up his children respectably.
The houses in which these poor people have lived are generally destroyed, to prevent others taking possession of them. The unhappy outcasts themselves, taking refuge in the nearest town, hide their distress in some cellar or low-priced room; or they build a turf cabin on the outskirts of a bog, and look for casual employment, and take “ a bit of ground in con-acre” to plant with potatoes ; or they squat on some mountain common, or on some rocky place near the sea, tempted by the facility of obtaining sea-weed for manuring the potato ground. The more enterprising proceed at once, before their means are exhausted, to England, where they generally contrive to make out a living by laborious employment.
For a small farmer in Ireland to sink to the condition of a labourer, is so great a fall, that he will make every effort to avoid it. The farmer almost invariably has a tolerable house and a good roof over him, and a sufficiency of potatoes at least. The labourer's cabin is too well known to need much description ; a single room, with mud floor, often without window or chimney, and with a roof so ill thatched that heavy rain penetrates it. The supply of labour is much beyond the demand; there is therefore great deficiency of employment, and the wages are miserably low. In the eastern part of Ireland, and near the large cities, these wages are gene
rally paid in money ; but in the western counties, the labourer or cottier gives a certain number of days' labour annually, in payment for the rent of the cabin in which he lives, and of a small plot of ground in which he grows potatoes for the support of his family. His pig and poultry must provide clothing, and every thing consumed by the family which his potato-garden does not produce.
Low as is the condition of the cottier or labourer, whose labour merely pays the rent of his cabin and potato-garden, there is yet a lower class ; those who, having no certain employment, are obliged to pay a money rent for their wretched cabin, and for the land which they take in con-acre, * and whose subsistence depends on the success of their crop. If it fail, they have no resource ; their bed or whatever they have is probably distrained for the rent; nothing remains. There is so little employ. ment to be had, that they have no alternative but to beg, or steal, or starve. “These appear to be the most wretched among the many wretched classes in Ireland.”† The labourers who go annually to reap the harvest in England, and in the eastern parts of
of land for oneon-acre means a contract for
* The term con-acre means a contract for the use of a small portion of land for one or more crops. It does not constitute a tenancy, or give any right of possession, but is merely a liberty to occupy the ground.--See Appendix AA.
† Digest of Evidence, part I. page 475.
Ireland, are mostly of this class; and their earnings during this season of employment pay the rent of their cabin and con-acre, and assist in clothing them. Their numbers have been annually increasing by improvident marriages ; and the very small demand for labour appears to render their condition hopeless. There are no means of ascertaining exactly the number of persons who were dependant on conacre potatoes for their support; but it must have formed a large portion of the population of all the western counties, and was not inconsiderable even in the eastern counties of Leinster and Ulster. Perhaps it may be estimated at 2,000,000.
The editor of the Digest of the Evidence on the Occupation of Land, thus remarks respecting the labouring population :-“ The means of subsistence “ of the various classes of labourers in Ireland “ have long been an enigma, even to those investi“ gators who have given the greatest degree of “ attention to the subject. There is one fact, how“ever, that all readily admit ; namely, that the “ continued existence from year to year of this “ large portion of the population, mainly depended " on the potato, which is no longer available to “ them; and consequently, a distinct provision “must now be made for their future support, with“out reference to former habits or practices. “ There are but two alternatives by which this